Kent Nagano

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Kent Nagano, 1990s
Photo: Rory Carnegie

Kent Nagano (born November 22, 1951 in Berkeley , California ) is an American conductor with Japanese roots.

life and work

Kent Nagano grew up in Morro Bay , California . His father George Kimiyoshi was an architect and mathematician, his mother Ruth Okamoto was a microbiologist and pianist. Both had studied at the University of California, Berkeley . Nagano's paternal grandparents emigrated from Japan to California in 1917, where they farmed vegetables. When they became seriously ill, Kent's parents took over their grandparents' farm in Morro Bay. There he grew up without television, cinema and stereo system, instead there was a piano. From an early age he made house music with his family. When he was in the local primary school ( Elementary School started school), he attended an integrated music school there before and after class. He was taught in piano and clarinet by the Georgian Wachtang Korisheli, who was trained at the Munich Music Academy , a studied philosopher and hobby painter, who sometimes also gave basic courses in art history or philosophy for the children. With learning and practicing, school and music could last up to 12 hours a day. At the age of eight he conducted the church choir .

From 1970 to 1974 Nagano studied sociology and music at the University of Santa Cruz . He continued his studies in San Francisco until 1978. Here he learned from the legendary emigrated László Varga , a cellist who a. a. was also a member of the New York Philharmonic . In addition, Nagano conducted works by his fellow students at the university.

After graduating, he went to the opera in Boston as an accompanist . His admiration for Olivier Messiaen soon led to a friendship with him. Nagano gained international fame in 1984 when Messiaen advised Seiji Ozawa to assist him in preparing the premiere of his only opera, Saint François d'Assise . He then conducted this seldom performed opera himself at the Salzburg Festival in 1998 . In the meantime he has recorded all of Messiaen's concert works on sound carriers. From 1984 he conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra . He continued his career in 1989 in Lyon , where he was the musical director of the Opéra National de Lyon until 1998 , making it the second most important opera stage in France. In addition, he also became Music Director of the second oldest British orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, from 1991 until the end of the 1999/2000 season. In 1994 he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites .

Opera for All, Munich, 2010

In 2000 he conducted the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho's opera L'amour de loin at the Salzburg Festival . In 2000 Nagano took over the artistic direction of the German Symphony Orchestra in Berlin (until the end of the 2006 season). He is also currently a guest conductor in Los Angeles . From 2006 to 2013 Nagano was general music director of the Bavarian State Opera . He is also Music Director of the Orchester symphonique de Montréal (OSM), with which he has extended the contract until 2020. Since 2015 he has been general music director of the Hamburg State Opera and the Philharmonic State Orchestra Hamburg , opera and orchestra director is the Swiss Georges Delnon . In 2016 Nagano directed the world premiere of Toshio Hosokawa's opera Stilles Meer at the Hamburg State Opera .

The 2018 Salzburg Festival opened Kent Nagano - as conductor of the Orchester symphonique de Montréal - with the oratorio in Latin, the St. Luke Passion by Krzysztof Penderecki from 1966.

Nagano is a busy and sought-after star among international conductors. In addition to his respective management functions, he also conducts the most respected orchestras in the world. Wherever Nagano was involved for a long time, he tried not only to maintain tradition but also to introduce a young audience to the classical and modern with an innovative concert program. The musical advancement of the next generation is particularly important to him.

Kent Nagano has been married to the Japanese pianist Mari Kodama since 1991 and has a daughter with her.



“Through questions that the arts raise and through answers that challenge them, we experience a beauty that has nothing to do with looking beautiful. Weakness, tragic or repulsive things can also be incredibly beautiful. Because every experience is beautiful that brings us closer to the essence of things, the source of all existence. [...]
I realize that the fine arts, dance, music and theater, cannot have the same meaning for everyone, that they are not as easily accessible as pop art or pop music. "

- Kent Nagano : 2004



  • Habakkuk Trotters: Kent Nagano. Music for a new century . Henschel, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-89487-413-9 , with discography.


  • Nagano Road. Kent Nagano - A conductor between worlds and cultures. Documentation, Germany, 2002, 45 min., Script and direction: Daniel Finkernagel and Alexander Lück, production: finkernagel & lück medienproduktion, synopsis and film excerpt, 4:48 min.
  • Kent Nagano - New ways, new sounds. Film portrait, 2006, 58 min., Script and director: Oliver Becker , production: Deutsche Welle TV, synopsis from ARD .
  • Kent Nagano conducts classical monuments. Music documentation, Germany, 2006, script and direction: Oliver Becker and Ellen Fellmann, production: Deutsche Welle TV and Unitel classica.
  • Kent Nagano - Montreal Symphony. Germany, Canada, 2010, 97 Min, written and directed. Bettina Ehrhardt, Theatrical Release Date: January 13, 2011 Summary of .
  • Nagano's children's songs . Music documentation, Germany, 2010, 60 min., Directed by Nadja Frenz, production: Vidicom and NDR , synopsis by ARD .
  • The dream of the conductor Kent Nagano. Documentary, Germany, 2017, 55:20 min., Script and direction: Nadja Frenz and Inge Kloepfer , camera: Jan Kerhart , production: Vincent TV, ICI artv, NDR , arte , series: stars and newcomers at the conductor's desk , first broadcast: 26 November 2017 at arte, table of contents by ARD.

Web links


Press article

Individual evidence

  1. ^ John Newman: Kent Nagano's Twin Passions: Music and Community . In: UC Santa Cruz Review , Winter 2002 edition (PDF; 2.8 MB), pp. 8–13.
  2. In conversation: Kent Nagano, May 17, 2010.
  3. APA : conductor Kent Nagano will stay in Montreal at least until 2020. In: Der Standard , November 12, 2013.
  4. Program of the Hamburg State Opera from January 24, 2016.
  5. St. Luke Passion - Orchester Symphonique de Montréal Nagano , on the website of the Salzburg Festival, accessed on June 23, 2019
  6. Kent Nagano artist biography on, accessed on June 23, 2019
  7. Mari Kodama website . (English)
  8. ^ Sabine Fallenstein: The pianist Mari Kodama. ( Memento from November 29, 2017 in the web archive ). In: SWR2 , Personal details, November 26, 2017.
  9. ^ Maestro Kent Nagano Awarded Order of the Rising Sun. ( Memento of May 13, 2012 in the Internet Archive ). In: Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco , December 2008.
  10. Kent Nagano receives Bavarian European Medal. In: , July 14, 2011.
  11. Helge Rehders: “I have a dream.” In: Die Zeit , No. 17/2004.
  12. DW-TV: Award-winning classic documentary now on DVD. In: Deutsche Welle , October 8, 2007.